Charles Barkley, 57, has a golf swing not even a mother could love.
As Jackie Chiles, the fast-talking lawyer of Seinfeld fame who describes everything with a series of adjectives, would put it, Barkley’s swing is ungainly, unwieldy and downright repugnant. But the round mound of rebound gets to pair up with five-time major winner Phil Mickelson in a made-for-TV exhibition against NFL great Peyton Manning and NBA star Stephen Curry in a modified-alternate-shot match play scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. EST on TNT. Gather round with your Thanksgiving leftovers because Barkley is either going to shock us with his improved play or we won’t be able to take our eyes off the train wreck.
Golfweek caught up with Barkley ahead of The Match: Champions for Change, and the former NBA great turned TV commentator responded in kind with his inimitable hilarity and hijinx.
Golfweek: How have you been preparing for The Match III?
Charles Barkley: I’ve been working my behind off. I’ve been hitting balls for 4-5 hours a day and I’ve been playing every day. Listen, if I don’t do well it won’t be from a lack of effort, I can promise you that.
GW: What made you want to go from the TV gig to inside the ropes and endure this level of scrutiny on national TV?
CB: I was invited and I wasn’t going to turn that down. Plus, the cause is near and dear to my heart. I don’t mind embarrassing or humiliating myself for a great cause.
GW: Where do you find pleasure in playing golf? And what keeps you coming back for more?
CB: There’s only two things when you are a celebrity that you can do and get peace and quiet: golf and fishing. I meet amazing people in my life but when you go to the supermarket, people want to talk to you. When you go to the dry cleaner, people want to talk to. It’s hard to find something to do when you’re famous. But when you go on the golf course and you’re out there in nature, there’s nothing like it.
GW: What’s your most embarrassing moment on a golf course?
CB: When I switched to left-handed clubs the next day in a tournament after playing poorly. People were like, wait, you sucked right-handed, what makes you think you’re talented enough to play lefty?
GW: When did you develop the hitch in your swing and what’s the craziest things you’ve tried to fix it?
CB: Probably 20 years ago. I used to be a good player until I took too many lessons from too many different people. Now I’ve got 10 people talking to me at a time when I’m trying to swing the golf club. I’m really trying to get out of it. I’m working with Stan Utley now and I’m playing better than I have in 20 years. But I’ve tried everything, including hypnosis. I’ll never believe in it again. I woke up with the same sh–y swing.
Charles Barkley chips onto the 3rd green during the ACC Golf Tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. (Photo: Reno Gazette-Journal)
GW: What’s the most money you’ve ever lost in a match?
CB: Probably $5,000. I may be stupid but I’m not stupid enough to play for a ton of money as bad as my golf game is.
GW: Who’s the best trash talker you’ve ever played against?
CB: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Michael thinks he’s Tiger Woods when he’s playing golf and Tiger Woods is just the greatest of all time. Michael is faking it and Tiger is just better than everyone else.
GW: How many majors should Phil have won?
CB: The guy had one of the greatest careers ever. It’s hard to win. That’s one thing that drives me crazy. Tiger’s only won15 majors out of how many? It’s hard to win, man.
GW: How many more majors would Phil have won if you were on his bag?
CB: If I took Bones’s spot? He’d have like three more.
GW: How do you and Phil compare to the Dream Team?
CB: Playing with Phil is one of the great joys of my life. It’s crazy how good he is. I’ve never played with anyone with a better short game.
GW: How much coaching has Phil given you?
CB: Let’s just say this, I’ve had enough coaching. I’m ready to play.
Charles Barkley before The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course. (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
GW: What’s the difference between standing over a 5-foot putt to win a hole and trying to make a free throw to win a game?
CB: In one I’ve got supreme confidence in myself and the other I don’t. I’m not going to miss a free throw. It’s clearly going to come down to how I handle the pressure and hopefully I have better coping skills from all my practice and hard work. I just can’t embarrass myself. Steph is a great player, Peyton is a good player, and I’m the wild card. If I play good, we should win.
GW: Win or lose, you and Phil are going to dominate the trash talking, right?
CB: You clearly don’t know Peyton well. He can hold his own on the trash talk. He’s scratch in that department.
GW: Why should America tune in on Friday?
CB: Simple. It’s going to be fun and it’s for a great cause.
Peyton Manning playing for three HBCUs at The Match: Champions for Change
Phil Mickelson: 'We actually have Chuck tees' at The Match: Champions for Change
Stephen Curry, Phil Mickelson trash talk Charles Barkley's swing ahead of The Match: Champions for Change